Why Giving Critiques Can Be More Valuable Than Receiving

Most authors join critique groups for the purpose of having others give feedback on their work, but did you know that receiving feedback is probably the least important offering a critique group has? If you ask me (someone who has never been in a critique group) the most valuable offering of a critique group is the feedback you give others or others receive on their work.

We can listen to criticism all day long, but at some point it becomes really difficult to see our own work. It’s hard for me to see that Aunt Jane is coming off as snippy and annoying. After all, she’s based on my own favorite aunt. It’s also difficult for me to see that I’ve created a plot that’s difficult to follow. I know exactly how it’s going to play out so it’s not difficult for me. But when I’m reading someone else’s work and see how her Aunt Joan is snippy and yet very similar to Aunt Jane I can start to better see some of my own weaknesses, as well as my own strengths.

When you get involved in a critique group jump in with both feet. Don’t just wait for what others have to say about your work, but pay close attention to what you’re seeing in their work as well. I promise, this could be the most valuable piece of your experience.

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9 comments

  1. I agree completely! In offering critiques, you also gain from finding ways to teach concepts you think you’ve mastered…until you try to explain them. There is no better way to strengthen your own writing than to try to strengthen the words of another author.

    Portions of the critiques you receive may not be helpful, and you can ignore them. But pay attention when a critique partner asks a question that makes you cringe and think, “busted!” That means they’ve found something that you already knew was a problem but didn’t know how to fix or were too lazy to correct. That “busted” feeling means you’ve got work to do.

  2. I have found this to be my own discovered truth as well. Reading, and providing feedback on another author’s work provides a different, and varying, perspective on my own. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. In our group, we use a feedback model known affectionately as “the oreo cookie” wherein we provide something we like about the piece, followed by criticisms phrased as questions – so the author can own the idea vice hearing it as only criticism, then wrap it up with something else we like about the piece. We have found this method to be an effective, as well as positive, way to encourage good feedback.

  3. So much truth in this post. Critiquing other work offers a huge evolutionary leap in an author’s writing. Plus, the relationships that come from working with other authors offer a personal support system (both ways) when you’re in the trenches. 🙂

  4. Very true. I’ve learned more analyzing other’s work and listening to the critiques others gave to the folks in my group than I have being critiqued myself. It’s also a confidence boost when my critiques are seen as helpful to other writers. Sort of makes me feeI know what I’m doing.

  5. I always recommend crit groups and relay the best piece of advice I ever revived about incoming crits.

    1) Open, review then WALK AWAY.

    All those red lines can be overwhelming at times. But always ALWAYS, when you return and review again, the A’Ha moment gets where it all (or most) makes sense. The group I’m in (RomCritters) is fab and you usually get lucky to obtain between 2-3 which is great in gaining different perspectives. I was also an AutoCrit fan as wow, you sure see what your “catch” words are. That/There, was/were and so forth.

    Great post Jessica! In case I miss tomorrows (heading to Branson MO) hope you and your great crew have a wonderful weekend.

  6. A helpful post, Jessica! I’ve read the earlier comments and found some inspiring approaches. Love the Oreo cookie. (although reading it makes me want a cookie!) Explaining to others causes us to pay attention to our (own) specifics. I mean how we talk with others about their story issues is a reflection of how deeply we can identify specific things in our stories like plot/theme/character/continuity/etc. Tactfully sharing an opinion is a skill. Yes, I’m with Bobbi on read/review/walk away after receiving notes. (Autocrit is awesome.) I certainly wrestle with that unpleasant feeling of “darn they didn’t get it/etc.” Although I went through a shift in my reactions to constructive criticism, that feeling of “they don’t like me” has taken a backseat to “Yay, something I can fix to make this better for my reader”–kind of like a game.

  7. I don’t belong to critique groups because of the time involved, but I do occasionally critique for friends, and what you’ve said is so true! I am terribly guilty of “telling, not showing.” and I recently read a wonderful story where the few scenes that suffered because of that type of narrative immediately showed me what was holding me up in my WIP.

    Note “slap alongside the head…” We can never see our weaknesses in our own work, but when we find it in others’ it suddenly becomes painfully clear in our own.

  8. My CPs and I often bemoan the fact we so easily see in each others work the very thing that we can’t see in our own. I’ve learnt a lot critiquing, but I have also learnt a lot through the crits of my own work. I think you need both to be able to grow as a writer.

  9. I love the oreo cookie approach, it’s one I always used when reviewing as well.
    I don’t have a crit group, I have joined the critique circle which so far looks really good, I just haven’t had the time to give it what it needs.

    I have found that reading books similar to what we are writing helps, as well. I say similar because too close and you’re risking your brain doing funny things with ideas.
    If you’re writing a mystery in a small town read a paranormal set in a similar place. The background information will be similar sights sounds etc or a mystery set in a big city for content.
    It’s also a really good way to find new authors and gives you an(other) excuse to read for work.

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